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Shanking Svetlana
A Minimal Gear Contact Progression
I am currently training a young lady who comes as a surprise. I have grown used to tomboys and female athletes who want to fight—or at least learn how. But a pretty, petite school teacher who shows up at the dojo in high heels, how much contact will she tolerate? The lady let me know her goals and I promised to train her like a fighter. Then, in her first sparring session, I began to waffle on that promise.
She noted the problem I was having with hitting her body [as opposed to the gloves and mask] and insisted that she could take it, and if she couldn’t that it was her problem. She scoffed at my additional gear suggestions, obviously having read my thoughts on this.
Yes, I have a particular reluctance to hit females. There is also my increasing reluctance to hit those I coach. The agonistics guys that have been around for a while, I will nail mercilessly in sparring, as they do with me. But, with Craig for instance, my only current boxer, he has noted I don’t punish him enough for mistakes when I throw punches at him. I’ve got no problem ripping him with a stick, but have a hard time punching him. What I think we have here, on my part, is more of a protective response. I’m very protective of females I am associated with. And, as a boxing coach, I am assuming a necessarily protective role with Craig.
There you go; for those women who have so often reviled me for not analyzing myself, I have done it, and I prefer self-ignorance! Now, having promised to handle this lady as a fighter—rather than as I traditionally view women through the archaic lens of my obsolete mind’s eye—I come to the conclusion that I cannot be relied upon to break type consistently. The solution I propose is to place the decision in her hands. In my returning to sparring with Charles a few days ago, with my wrist not yet healed, I think we stumbled upon a solution that might apply well to all of our contact training sessions.
So, Svetlana, when we put on mask and glove, choose your intensity level from the progression below, and I promise to do my best to provide the requisite level of aggression.
The Contact Progression Matrix
1. Slow, pre-arranged feeder drill
2. Pre-arranged feeder drill
3. Zombie [progressive count feed or slow motion freestyle feed]
4. Freestyle [three-quarter speed freestyle feed]
5. Intense feed [full-speed freestyle feed]
6. Coach sparring [hits will be re-fed, verbal breaks taken, pointers given]
7. Sparring [include role-playing different styles, not just sparring according to my preferred fighting mode]
8. Dueling [priority concern for defense]
9. Combat [equal concern for defense and offense]
10. Murder [minimal concern for defense on my part = ‘suicide’ attacks]
A. The level of contact progression refers to tactical aggression and behavior. Since this is training, we are not trying to use maximum power, or hurt one another. However, as the intensity level increases it becomes more difficult to minimize power.
B. Also, the more of a threat you become to your sparring partner, the more difficult it becomes for him to control his power. Between 8 and 10 evenly matched fighters are essentially blasting each other. For this reason, inexperienced fighters are never matched together for sparring at this level. This enables the more experienced fighter to ‘lookout for’ the safety of their junior sparring partner while also protecting themselves.
C. Even in full-out sparring between matched fighters at levels 8-10 we must always maintain our contact sensitivity and remain poised to halt to avoid injuring a partner who is in trouble. If your partner seems overwhelmed verbally cue him that you are backing down the intensity so that he can work back into the session without doing something desperate. If he seems hurt, just back off and make a verbal inquiry.
D. Always remember that sparring is supposed to be a learning process, not a competition. If you are scoring and your opponent is not adapting, take a break and say, ‘Look, this is how I’m making this work’, and walk through the tactics and techniques that are enabling this on your part and his.
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